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Just finished reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Veggies/sides, on March 18th, 2017.

pepper_onion_roast_indian_spices

Oh yummy! After serving this to friends for dinner one night, I had about half of it left over. I ate it all over 3 meals. Cold or warmed, or hot. Delicious!

In a few days I’ll post a recipe for a grilled chicken that I made to go with this, but THIS recipe, to me, was the star of the menu. I found it online, but it’s from a book by Lynne Rosetto Kasper. She must enjoy Indian food just like I do.

What I wanted to do was use up 4-5 mixed colored bell peppers I had in my fridge. So I did a search for Indian bell peppers, and this one popped up. The chunks of bell peppers are mixed with chunks of red onion, canned, rinsed and drained garbanzo beans, with olive oil and some lovely spices. Nothing that would overwhelm any eater. The dish isn’t “hot,” just purely flavorful. It could be a vegetarian entrée; it could be a side salad, cold, or right out of the oven it’s purely sublime with some cilantro, lime juice sprinkled over the top. The recipe called for some yogurt on top – I forgot, and didn’t miss it.

pepper_onion_roast_raw_mixedFirst you combine the vegetables (raw) in a bowl, add the oil, salt, a pinch of sugar and the spices (cumin, black pepper and ground coriander that have been toasted, then ground to a fine powder). Meanwhile, you heat up the baking sheet in the oven, pour these veggies out onto it once it’s piping hot, then roast the veggies for about 40 minutes in a 450° oven.

If the pan is real crowded, I suggest you use two, as you want the vegetables to get caramelized and toasty on the edges. Those are the best bites of all!

With the left overs, I didn’t even bother to add cilantro – I just ate it straight out of the plastic dish I’d stored it in. Delicious down to the very last smidgen of roasted onion.I’ve increased the amount of onion (2 instead of 1), and I didn’t use the arugula – it might be nice added in after the mixture roasts – but I forgot that also, and didn’t miss it.

What’s GOOD: the combination of peppers, onions and garbanzos is just SO good. The roasting is easy, the chopping is really quite easy. I’d definitely make this again. Loved the spices – the only heat comes from the black pepper. Altogether wonderful.

What’s NOT: not a thing. It was delish.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pepper and Onion Roast with Soft Indian Spices

Recipe By: adapted slightly from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper, Lynne Rosetto Kasper
Serving Size: 6

3 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons cilantro — tightly packed
1 piece fresh ginger — (1″) peeled and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper — chopped into 1/2″ pieces
2 large yellow bell peppers — chopped into 1/2″ pieces
2 large red onions — chopped
16 ounces garbanzo beans, canned — drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons lime juice
Generous pinch of sugar Salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup arugula — tightly packed (optional)
GARNISH: (all are optional)
Lime juice
Cilantro leaves
Plain yogurt

NOTES: If I made this again, I’d add the chopped fresh arugula to the mixture when it’s served; I wouldn’t roast the arugula.
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F, and put a large shallow pan (like a baking tray) onto the middle rack. The pan will preheat with the oven.
2. In a food processor, combine the garlic, cilantro and ginger and process until fine, but not pureed.
3. In a large bowl, combine this mixture with all of the other ingredients except for the garnishes. Toss to mix. Carefully spread the mixture in the pan which is already in the oven. (If there isn’t enough room around the veggies, use 2 pans – if it’s crowded, the veggies will steam rather than roast and won’t get crispy edges.) Roast for 40 minutes, stirring often and scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. The peppers should be tender, and the chickpeas should be crisp.
4. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl (and add the arugula if desired) and top with the garnishes. Serve. This is also equally good cold or served at room temp with or without the garnishes.
Per Serving: 195 Calories; 8g Fat (35.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 232mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on March 18th, 2017:

    We like sauteed peppers and onions, roasted vegetables, and Indian spices, so this looks like a real winner! Every time I roast a pan full of vegetables, I’m wondering what I could do to change them up a bit. This contains everything you need to round out a meal of a simple protein, and it could easily serve as a main dish itself as well. Great idea!

    It was a winner in my book. It made simple veggies so much more flavorful. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did . . . carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on March 25th, 2017:

    This sounds good.

    It was good, and enjoyed it a lot with the roasted veggies along with . . . carolyn t

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